Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Guru Special Report: La Salle To Name Quinnipiac Aide Mountain MacGillivray New Women’s Coach

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — La Salle has reached into a mid-major program of national success to complete the dual vacancies of its men’s and women’s basketball coaching positions with the hire and homecoming of Mountain MacGillivray, associate head coach of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Quinnipiac, according to  several sources familiar with the negotiations that were completed Friday.

MacGillivray, a 45-year-old native of Philadelphia who began the day wearing Quinnipiac attire attending a stop at Atlantic City, in the first recruiting weekend of the season, was unavailable for comment.

His hire follows that of the recent welcome to new men’s coach coach Ashley Howard off the NCAA champion Villanova staff of Jay Wright.

La Salle will make the announcement formally on Saturday and hold an introductory press conference Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. in the Tom Gola Arena at TruMark Financial Center on the school campus near 20th & Olney.

The Explorers, barring other departures through potential transfers, such is the state of both collegiate genders these days, graduated one of their all-time scorers in Amy Griffin and leading rebounder Ashanti Freeland but among the key returnees next fall are Shaquana Edwards and Adreanna Miller.

It’s the first women’s coaching turnover in eight seasons at a Big Five school since Jeff Williams, then associate head coach at Pittsburgh, was hired in 2010 at La Salle.

He was let go following this season after the 12th-seeded Explorers out of 14 teams finished 8-22 overall with their  elimination at George Washington in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. They were 3-13 in the conference.

A year earlier the likeable Williams won the A-10 coaching honors after the Explorers reached 17 wins, their best performance since 2007 before regressing below .500 this year.

However, a large part of the 92-149 Williams era was marked by key injuries on his roster.

Ironically, it’s the second time La Salle has had to fill dual vacancies, the last in 2004 when Tom Hahn left the men’s program and John Miller left the women’s team, where Miller was ultimately replaced by his longtime assistant Tom Lochner.

But before Lochner was selected, Quinnipiac head coach Trish Sacca-Fabbri, a former Delran star in South Jersey, briefly emerged as the initial frontrunner before the Bobcats made it attractive for her to stay and she hired MacGillivray five years later in 2009 as recruiting coordinator before his eventual promotion as her top assistant.

Next up in that La Salle hunt was then Holy Family women’s coach Mike McLaughlin from Northeast Philadelphia before the Explorers then decided to stay in-house but McLaughlin later became Penn’s women’s coach where he has raised the Quakers to three Ivy crowns and a challenger to Princeton’s recent dominance.

Like McLaughlin, landing a Big Five women’s job has been a long-held dream by MacGillivray, and once during that period of local stability in his hometown he made known his aspiration saying he would go after any opening that came along, though he considered potential vacancies a longshot.

Villanova’s Harry Perretta recently completed his 40th season, Saint Joseph’s Cindy Griffin her 18th, Penn’s McLaughlin his ninth, and Temple’s Tonya Cardoza, her 10th.

And to expand to the Philly Six, Drexel’s Denise Dillon has been with the Dragons for 15 seasons.

MacGillivray is a 1996 graduate of Temple, also the alma mater of Lochner and former Saint Joseph’s coach Jim Foster, now at Chattanooga.

In past conversations, MacGillivray has credited both Miller, who later became the longtime successful coach at Mount Saint Joseph’s in the Inter-Ac league, and Lochner, who went on to be on Delaware’s staff in the Elena Delle Donne era and is now a Lafayette assistant, as the two most influential to giving him confidence during his early years in coaching.

He is no stranger in local women’s basketball circles, having spent 11 seasons with Barry Kirsch at Archbishop Carroll (1995-99. 2000-07), once coached by Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw, and having coached in the prominent Comets and Philadelphia Lady Running Rebels in AAU competition. Stops at Vermont and New Hampshire are also in his profile.

Though there has been mixed feelings in the coaching world about the La Salle women’s job, Bill Bradshaw, in his second stint as athletic director at the school, was confident he could find someone of quality aspiring to rebuild the program.

During the men’s search he had a key staff member do the early work on the women’s job since getting Howard aboard with the men was an urgency, but that said, Bradshaw wanted to be deeply involved in filling the women’s position, which was why a small delay occurred getting to the interview process.

He would not say who else was in the pool, but conversations with other sources focused on Niagara head coach Jada Pierce, a former Central High star near La Salle who also was a staffer at Saint Joseph’s and Delaware; Dartmouth head coach Belle Koclanes, who spent four years as a Penn assistant prior to the McLaughlin era; and Division II USciences head coach Jackie Hartzell, who previously coached at Archbishop Ryan.

There were probably several others contacted for interest but were happy in their present positions.

All had good interviews, according to a source in the search committee requesting anonymity, and Hartzell might have been the choice had not La Salle been in its present state, giving MacGillivray the edge with his experience in Division I.

For her part, going into the process, Hartzell felt she was in a win-win, either landing the job, or remain with the Devils, where she had them set program records last season, including landing a first-ever national ranking.

It should be noted Bradshaw has had a good track record hiring women’s basketball coaches, having picked two in his first La Salle stint with no experience coaching women, but Speedy Morris, who later became Explorers men’s coach, and Miller, gave the program its greatest era with a national ranking and such stars, among others, as Kelly Greenberg and Cheryl Reeve, the four-time WNBA champion coach of the Minnesota Lynx.

At DePaul, Bradshaw brought aboard nationally regarded Doug Bruno — both Bruno and Reeve have been USA national women’s team assistants, and then at Temple, after the departure of Dawn Staley to South Carolina, he hired Cardoza off her longtime run on the staff of UConn’s Geno Auriemma.

Bradshaw will get a jump start in attendance at Monday’s press conference in that MacGillivray and his wife Grace have seven children: Chiara 15, Mary 13, Brigid 11, Sean 9, Catherine 6, Joseph 4, and Theresa 1.


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